Thursday, March 26, 2020

Bunkered down


Sitting on the patio, waiting for temperature to reach corona-killing range. Down here in Florida, “patio” is pronounced “lanai.” That is Hawaiian for “patio.” I think. Translations not always accurate, “lanai” could mean “Place where silly white people sit in hot sun.”

I am not sitting in the sun. I am not that silly a white man. The lanai is recessed into the house proper. My delicate Irish-gened skin is not directly exposed to the sun.

Those translation things can be in-the-neighborhood meanings, and sometimes words rephrased so as not to embarrass. I just reread “Empire of the Summer Moon,” which has examples of translations rendered more delicate.

The book is a history of Comanche v White People. We know how that 200-year-old conflict turned out. Like other Indians, Comanche were not prejudiced when it came to killing, kidnapping, torturing and raping White People. Spanish, Mexican, Texan, American, African-American – all were equal in the eyes of Comanche. Texans were maybe more equal than other White People, author S.C. Gwynne says, mostly because more Texans than other White People went head-to-head with Comanche, and because Texans were as hard-headed as Comanche and refused to be driven out.

Some Comanche names have been changed by historians because literal translations were ill suited for civilized readers. Buffalo Hump is one example. Buffalo Hump was a Comanche war leader. He raided many a Texas farm; kidnapped many a Texas child, many a Texas woman; fought many times with Texas Rangers.

Buffalo Hump’s Comanche name did not convert literally into accepted translation. Author Gwynne says the literal meaning was … We will just say it was something like “In Permanent State of Arousal.”

“Empire of the Summer Moon” is a good book for this time of social-distancing. A little less than one-third deals with Cynthia Ann Parker and her oldest son, Quanah.

A good read, like I said. And, we will be coming up on summer moons not too long from now.

Concerning different kinds of Texans, historian T.R. Fehrenbach wrote: “The moral, upstanding Comanche who lived by the laws and gods of his tribe enjoyed heaping live coals on a staked-out white man’s genitals; a moral Mexican, for a fancied insult, would slip his knife into an Anglo back. The moral Texan, who lived in peace and amity with his fellows, would bash an Indian infant’s head against a tree or gut-shoot a ‘greaser’ if he blinked.” 

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